After the last team finished crashing through a frothy Narragansett Bay on Monday, a brilliant red-orange sunset greeted the competitors for the opening ceremony of the 2010 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship.
The Championship was officially opened by ISAF President Göran Petersson who thanked the organizing committee at the New York Yacht Club and said, "you are united in your passion, the physical and mental challenges and the sheer excitement of sailing, good luck to everyone.
As the country flags flew atop New York Yacht Club's Harbour Court, the sailors from 14 nations did not seem at all drained from their day of practice in the fleet of Sonars, rather, they were refreshed and ready for what is set to be one of the most competitive match racing worlds yet.
"Today was perfect, with plenty of wind and relatively flat seas," said Silja Kanerea, the tactician for the Finnish team lead by skipper Silja Lehtinen. The team gained experience sailing Sonars earlier this summer at the US Sailing Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where they saw the "biggest waves" they had ever sailed in. They said after sailing here today, they were ready for the championship.
For other teams, it was their first day on a Sonar. As the white spinnakers popped on each set off of Rose Island Light, however, it looked as though boat handling was not going to be a problem for any team. "This is unlike most events with large fleets," said US Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean Brenner at the opening ceremonies. "There are no tourists at this championship. Every race will be tough."
Brenner put this year's championship in perspective. "Every year we think of one pinnacle event to strive for," he said. "In an Olympic year it's the Olympic Games. This year, it's the Worlds. This is their Olympics this year."
Tuesday starts five days of intense racing that will include a round robin series leading up to a possible quarter finals, semi finals and finals series. In years past, there was a disparity between the top ranked teams and the bottom of the quarterfinalists in a championship. This year, the competitors are preparing for a nose-to-nose battle all the way through.
"I don't know if the top end of the group is significantly higher than the last few years," said Annie Lush, who won this title as crew for Sally Barkow in 2004 and 2005 but now sails as tactician with Lucy Macgregor (GBR), "but the pool is much deeper. I don't know who we'd pick to sail against if we had the opportunity later in the event."
Lehtinen's tactician, Kanerea, is focused on Lush's assessment. She is taking an unorthodox approach with her position on the boat, switching from trimming the mainsail upwind to replacing forward crew Mikaela Wulff downwind. "I am able to see more from upfront," said Kanerea, who has to pass the middle crewmember after the spinnaker sets. She is the tactician for their 2012 Olympic campaign and her decision illustrates the complicated nature of this discipline where supplied boats are often different than the Olympic equipment.
With light northerlies and then a filling, sunny sea-breeze predicted for Tuesday's opening day of racing, there will be no shortage of excitement on the water. As the week progresses, crew positions and expectations and skills will be challenged as the teams look for the opportunities to climb the seeding chart.
The 20 teams set to compete for the coveted title are loaded with Olympic medalists and world champions and it is on course to be an exciting contest.
The ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship has been run annually since 1999 and since the selection of women's match racing to the Olympic Games for 2012 interest in the discipline has increased. The 20 teams at this year's event are representing 14 nations, include three past World Champions and the winners of each of the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas.
Name (Nation) - ISAF World Ranking at 15 September 2010
1. Nicky Souter (AUS) - 4
2. Lucy Macgregor (GBR) - 3
3. Renee Groeneveld (NED) - 1
4. Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) - 5
5. Claire Leroy (FRA) - 2
6. Katie Spithill (AUS) - 7
7. Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA) - 6
8. Julie Bossard (FRA) - 9
9. Genevieve Tulloch (USA) - 11
10. Sally Barkow (USA) - 13
11. Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen (DEN) - 10
12. Camilla Ulrikkeholm (DEN) - 19
13. Samantha Osborne (NZL) - 16
14. Juliana Senfft (BRA) - 20
15. Silja Lehtinen (FIN) - 14
16. Ekaterina Skudina (RUS) - 12
17. Silvia Roca mata (ESP) - 15
18. Rita Gonçalves (POR) - 23
WC. Sofia Bekatorou (GRE) - 31
WC. Petra Kliba (CRO) - 25
All the latest details on the 2010 Worlds, together with an archive of results from previous championships is available on the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship microsite at www.sailing.org/wmatchworlds